If you’ve been diagnosed with high cholesterol, you might assume it only impacts your health. However, insurance companies take your health issues into consideration when writing life insurance policies. You might be charged more for coverage or even be denied a policy. To help you navigate the ins and outs of getting a life insurance policy with high cholesterol, Bankrate’s insurance editorial team is here to answer your questions.

Life insurance and high cholesterol

Before you’re approved for a life insurance policy, your life insurance provider may require you to get a medical exam that includes getting blood work done. The exam, health questionnaire and blood work allow the company to identify potential health issues and learn about your medical history. The company looks at several health factors when examining your blood work results, your cholesterol levels being an important one.

You might already be aware that cholesterol is essentially a fat-like substance in your blood. Your body needs cholesterol to make hormones, produce vitamin D and build cells. Furthermore, cholesterol is usually divided into two types: high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol, also called “good cholesterol,” and low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol, which is often referred to as “bad cholesterol.” While your body needs both types, an imbalance can lead to health problems.

In general, healthy cholesterol levels are:

  • Total cholesterol: Levels below 200 mg/dL
  • LDL cholesterol: Levels below 130 mg/dL
  • HDL cholesterol: Levels above 40 mg/dL in men and above 50 mg/dL in women

To be diagnosed with borderline or high cholesterol, your levels might be:

  • Total cholesterol: Levels over 200 mg/dL
  • LDL cholesterol: Levels over 130 mg/dL
  • HDL cholesterol: Levels below 40 mg/dL in men and below 50 mg/dL in women

High cholesterol is a health risk because it can limit your blood flow, putting you at higher risk for a heart attack or stroke.

How will high cholesterol impact my premiums?

Even the best life insurance companies evaluate the potential risk of insuring you when determining your premium. If you are considered a high risk, then your life insurance premium will probably be higher than lower-risk individuals. While a medical examination is one part of the underwriting process, life insurance companies will also look at other factors such as your age, medical history and even your hobbies.

Because high cholesterol can put you at risk for heart attacks and strokes, two of the leading causes of death in the U.S., insurance companies consider it a risk factor. If your cholesterol is particularly high, not well controlled with medication or if you have other health issues, you might even be denied coverage.

Can I lower my life insurance premium after I have my policy?

Yes, it’s possible to lower your life insurance premium even after you have your policy. If you’ve made healthy changes and are able to lower your cholesterol levels, you can ask your life insurance company for a reevaluation. If the results of the exam are favorable, you might see a decrease in your premium. You could also apply for a new life insurance policy, undergo a new medical exam and then replace your existing policy with the newer, lower-premium policy.

How to prepare for a life insurance medical exam

Your insurance provider will likely give you instructions about how to prepare for your life insurance medical exam, but there are many helpful things you might do in the days leading up to the exam. While they won’t improve your cholesterol instantly, these tips can help the exam go smoothly:

  • Eat nutritious meals: Try to start eating more nutritious foods in the days or weeks leading up to your exam. Although eating healthy won’t make changes overnight, getting into the habit of making nutritious choices might improve your health in the long run.
  • Stay hydrated: Since you’re having blood work done, you might drink more water than usual and avoid drinking alcohol in the days before your exam. Staying hydrated could make it easier to draw blood and collect a urine sample.
  • Exercise: Again, hitting the gym or going for a run won’t dramatically change your exam results. However, getting into healthy habits in the weeks or months leading up to the exam might eventually help you get better rates on your life insurance policy.
  • Don’t eat for several hours before the exam: Your insurance provider will likely give you specific instructions on how long you are supposed to fast before the exam since eating right before blood work can give inaccurate results. You might want to schedule the exam in the morning if you think it might be difficult to fast.

At the exam, your technician will likely draw blood, request a urine sample, and check your height, weight, blood oxygen level, blood pressure and pulse. You also might be asked about your health history or family history of disease or medical conditions.

Will my life insurance application be declined for high cholesterol?

Potentially. Every life insurance company has its own rating method, and if your cholesterol is very high, uncontrolled by medication or if you have other health issues in conjunction with your high cholesterol, your coverage might be denied.

If you have high cholesterol and need life insurance quickly, you can expect to pay a higher premium than if your cholesterol levels are lower. If you have time to lower your cholesterol levels before buying a policy, you might see a lower rate.

If your application is declined and you don’t have time to lower your cholesterol before buying a policy, you may want to consider guaranteed issue life insurance, which is a type of whole life insurance. Guaranteed issue life insurance does not require a medical exam or health check and is, as the name suggests, guaranteed regardless of your health situation. However, these types of policies tend to have relatively low coverage limits, high premiums and may have minimum age requirements.

Frequently asked questions

    • If you’ve applied for and been declined coverage by a few different carriers, guaranteed life insurance may be a good option. Just keep in mind that this type of policy tends to be more expensive than life insurance policies that require medical exams, so you should expect a higher premium. Some providers may also have a minimum age requirement, which is typically from 50 to 80.
    • It depends on your needs and goals. While whole life insurance covers you for the entirety of your life (as long as you pay the premiums), term life insurance only covers you for a set period of time, usually 10 to 30 years. Whole life insurance can help ensure that your family has financial support after you pass away and comes with some living benefits that you can use while you are alive. If you are buying coverage to protect your family from outstanding debts, term insurance might be a good choice since you are theoretically working to pay off your debts and might not need the coverage long term.
    • The amount of coverage you buy will depend on your unique circumstances. You may only want enough coverage to pay for funeral expenses or to cover an outstanding debt, like a mortgage. Or you might want to provide your family or loved ones with money to live on to replace your income. You might even want a sum large enough to leave a financial gift to a spouse, your children or an organization. Using a life insurance calculator or working with a licensed agent could help you choose an appropriate amount of coverage.